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Peter Harvey: Safety is the only choice

Wednesday, 2 September 2015 ( #734 )
Peter Harvey
Peter Harvey
Peter Harvey is CEO of the Fork Lift Truck Association which claims to be the most representative body of its kind in Europe. FLTA strives to maintain and raise standards in the materials handling industry, protecting the interests of consumers as well as enhancing both safety and productivity in the workplace.
Peter Harvey is often struck by an apparent quirk of the human condition that requires us to make artificial choices. Beatles or Stones? Blur or Oasis. Nature or nurture? Why not both? It surfaced the other day while I was talking to a colleague who works in a very senior capacity for one of the world's leading forklift manufacturers. He was making a very persuasive case for technology being the key to solving the problem of stubbornly high rates of accidents involving forklifts. Instinctively, I found myself putting a counter-case: the answer lies in better management controls - creating cultures in the workplace whereby poor or dangerous operating practices are simply not tolerated by the entire community within the workplace. Just as spitting in a restaurant would result in instant opprobrium among other diners... In truth, of course, both approaches are correct - and absolutely necessary. Our industry's capacity for developing ingenious, yet appropriate, new solutions continues to amaze and delight me. Although fundamentally similar in configuration to those our fathers would have recognised, today's machines are infinitely safer. For evidence, take a look at the annual entries in the Fork Lift Truck Association Annual Award for Safety. In our Pick of the Year, you'll find a wealth of new innovations designed to reduce the risk of mishaps and misuse: systems to control cornering at speed or with raised loads; masts and overhead guards that massively improve visibility; blue lights that shine onto the floor to pre-warn pedestrians that a truck is approaching. The list is long and constantly expanding. But, as our National Fork Truck Safety Conference on 23rd September will demonstrate, what's needed is a holistic approach to safety - a strategy and action plan that captures hearts and minds and involves everyone in the workplace, however tangential their involvement with forklifts. And that needs to come from the top. Managers need to be as passionate about safety as they are about profit. By a happy coincidence, the two go hand in hand. Research proves that safe and sensible operations get the work done in exactly the same time as rapid, stop-start driving (which requires more corrections), but offers a huge dividend in terms of reduced stock and racking damage and improved workplace morale. If you'd like to join the debate, why not join us for the National Fork Truck Safety Conference on 23rd September at Loughborough University? You'll find all the details on our website.